Are you using QR Codes in your business? Do you know the rules around their use? Have you considered if you are infringing on any laws in using a QR code.

What are the legal consequences of using a QR Code?

The early 2020’s has seen the rise of QR codes as a device used by many businesses and people in their daily lives. You could almost say that they have become ubiquitous in daily life. So much so that few people have considered the legal ramifications of using QR codes. In this article we will outline some of the concerns and what you should check out if you want to use QR codes.

What is a QR Code?

It is widely believed that the QR code system was invented by Masahiro Hara in 1994 from the Japanese company Denso Wave. They work through a picture code that directs the user to a specific website. There are a variety of different uses for QR codes and in 2015 it was even provided with its own International Standards Organisation standard “ISO/IEC 18004:2015”.

What should you be concerned about?

Recently a US company filed a lawsuit alleging breach of a patent that it owns relating to the use of QR codes. See here for more about that specific case. Even if the litigation succeeds it doesn’t stop people using QR codes, rather it just prevents the use of them in certain circumstances. What this outlines though is something that a lot of businesses need to be aware of regarding using what they see as open source technology without understanding the legal risks. Generally QR codes can be used by anyone however you need to be aware of patents that might exist.

Patents are generally understood to be a right that is granted to someone to exclusive use of a device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive and useful. There are over 15 million registered around the world so it is impossible to know all of the different devices, substances, methods and processes that are protected by patents.  Different patents will apply in different countries and some will even cover multiple countries around the world.

No matter what devices, substances, methods and processes that you use in your business you need to ensure that you do your best to not breach a patent. This will usually happen without your knowledge so you need to keep up to date with the rules and news surrounding various areas of your business. We are not suggesting that you ask a patent lawyer to look at every device, substance, method and process that you use in your business as that is impractical. Just be aware that these problems could arise and investigate them if you are concerned.

How does the Business Legal Lifecycle work?

Unknown issues relating to QR codes is just one area of the law that you may not be aware of impacting your business. Whilst this is a novel area there are many risks in a business that you can resolve if you take a proactive approach to the legal risks in your business. That is why we created our Legal Risk Assessment. To help you to spot the legal risks in your business.

The assessment will actually save you money in the long term by empowering you with the confidence and knowledge to prevent the legal risks in your business. You can then go to your lawyer to reduce your legal risks to prevent legal risks within their business and prevent so many problems that commonly afflict small to medium sized businesses.

Get your Business Legal Lifecycle Legal Risk Assessment by clicking below.

Have you heard about the recent US lawsuit involving QR codes? Are you using QR Codes in your business? Do you know the rules around their use? Have you considered if you are infringing on any laws in using a QR code? 

Recent QR Code Case

In 2022, US company Neomedia filed a lawsuit in a US court claiming an infringement of its patent in a specific use of QR codes. Many people are concerned about what this means for them using QR codes in their business.

What is a QR Code?

It is widely believed that the QR code system was invented by Masahiro Hara in 1994 from the Japanese company Denso Wave. They work through a picture code that directs the user to a specific website. There are a variety of different uses for QR codes and in 2015 it was even provided with its own International Standards Organisation standard “ISO/IEC 18004:2015”.

What is the lawsuit about?

The lawsuit refers to US Patents 6,199,048 and 8,131,597 which essentially grant Neomedia a patent to use a QR code to direct you to a shortcode such as google’s shortcode system. Most businesses use these codes to help track the behaviour of their users through the internet. Essentially Neomedia is claiming damages for its loss because it owns the patent and thus they must agree to using the process.

Importantly the lawsuit does not preclude the use of QR codes generally and QR codes can be used by anyone however you need to be aware of patents that might exist. At the time of writing this article the lawsuit has not finalised and we will update this article when a decision is reached or the matter is settled.

What is a patent?

Patents are generally understood to be a right that is granted to someone to exclusive use of a device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive and useful. There are over 15 million registered around the world so it is impossible to know all of the different devices, substances, methods and processes that are protected by patents.  Different patents will apply in different countries and some will even cover multiple countries around the world.

What should you do?

The lawsuit alleges a very specific use of a QR code and whilst the case is yet to be decided it appears clear that the best course of action is to use QR codes to direct users to your website directly and not through a shortcode.  You should speak to your website administrator to ensure that they put in place other ways to track your users behaviour.

How does the Business Legal Lifecycle work?

Unknown issues relating to QR codes is just one area of the law that you may not be aware of impacting your business. Whilst this is a novel area there are many risks in a business that you can resolve if you take a proactive approach to the legal risks in your business. That is why we created our Legal Risk Assessment. To help you to spot the legal risks in your business.

The assessment will actually save you money in the long term by empowering you with the confidence and knowledge to prevent the legal risks in your business. You can then go to your lawyer to reduce your legal risks to prevent legal risks and so many problems that commonly afflict small to medium sized businesses.

Get your Business Legal Lifecycle Legal Risk Assessment by clicking below.

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